We love to eat symbolic foods* on Jewish holidays. When Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, begins at sunset on Sunday eve apples will be dipped in honey and round, raisin studded challah will be blessed. But somehow, most families I know begin the holiday feast with glistening chicken soup.
Symbolic? Maybe only in the sense that it is an undisputed classic that signal the beginning of a family gathering.
Traditional Eastern European chicken soup is very basic, with a plump 3.5-4 pound chicken (or chicken parts), one quartered onion, sliced carrots, celery, parsnips, and fresh dill and salt, at the heart of the aromatic, slow simmered broth.
Consider this a foundational recipe, ripe for playing with, if you’d like to add some personal touches. My mother-in-law taught me to add diced zucchini and cauliflower florets towards the end of a low and slow simmer. An Italian grandmother I loved taught me to add a couple of quartered tomatoes to heighten the golden hue and balance the sweetness of the carrots.
In a deep dive on my blog, www.kosherlikeme.com, I explored 20 variations on this theme of chicken soup. Readers were more passionate about these recipes than almost anything else I’ve ever written about. Chicken soup speaks to all people, in all cultures, for sure.
Whether chicken soup is Thai inspired with a coconut milk base, hails from the southwest with chicken tortilla soup, at the intersection of Cuban meets Jewish (Jewban Penicillin) or Asian inspired vegan un-chicken, it’s clear that we’re all comforted by a steaming bowl of rich broth.
To checkout 20 variations on chicken soup click here.
To learn how to make dumplings with minced brisket click here.
To make tri-colored matzah balls click here.
To make my traditional chicken soup, guaranteed to speed up your healing from that scratchy throat, read on.
Traditional Jewish Chicken Soup
Liz Rueven; www.kosherlikeme.com
One chicken, cut in 1/8th's, rinsed and trimmed of extra fat and skin.
1 onion, quartered (remove before serving)
4-5 carrots, scraped and sliced into bite size pieces
2 parsnips scraped and cut into big chunks (remove before serving)
4 stalks celery, washed and cut into bite size pieces
3-5 cloves garlic, chunked (optional but oh- so good if you’re sick)
1 zucchini, washed and cut into bite size pieces (optional)
1 handful fresh dill, washed and rough chopped
1-2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 heaping tablespoon soup enhancer, like organic vegetable powder, or 2 teaspoons salt
Place all ingredients, except dill and zucchini, in a large pot.
Add cold water to a level about 2 inches above the ingredients. DO NOT add too much water or the soup will not be rich enough. This is the trick!
Slowly, bring soup to an active simmer. After about 10 min, skim the surface of any foam (coagulated protein) and immediately turn soup to low simmer. Keep an eye on the simmer, making sure it is low and slow (boiling will toughen the chicken). Leave the lid cracked open a bit so it doesn't overflow.
Continue simmering, with the lid cracked, for about 1.5-2 hours.
In the last 15 mins. of cooking, add the fresh dill and zucchini.
Remove from heat, uncover and allow to cool. Remove the chicken and cool separately so it doesn't continue cooking. Strain cooled soup of parsnips and onions, if you like.
Refrigerate overnight and remove any accumulated fat before serving.
*Some symbolic foods associated with positive omens in the new year: honey (sweet beginnings), apples (the inclusion of the divine’s presence), pomegranate arils (fertility), sweet round challah studded with raisins (prosperity and blessings without beginning or end), dates (beauty and strength).